It premiered more than a year later, on October 5, 2001.In 2002, Hillenburg and the show's staff members decided to stop making episodes to work on the 2004 film The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie, after completing production of the third season.

Celebrities—including Justin Timberlake, Kelly Osbourne, Britney Spears, Bruce Willis, Noel Gallagher, rapper Dr.

Dre, and Mike Myers—have been reported to be fans of the show.

The third season featured Tom Kenny as the voice of the title character Sponge Bob Square Pants and his pet snail Gary.

Sponge Bob's best friend, a starfish named Patrick Star, was voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, In addition to the regular cast members, episodes feature guest voices from many ranges of professions, including actors and musicians.

In 2002, Sponge Bob Square Pants dolls sold at a rate of 75,000 per week, which was faster than Tickle Me Elmo dolls were selling at the time.

Kenny said "I had heard that gay viewers enjoy the show in the same way that lots of people—college students, parents and children—like the show[...] I thought it was rather silly to hang an entire article on that.

I don't think it's a case of it being a gay-friendly show—It's a human-being-friendly show.

They're all welcome." The show's popularity among gay men would become controversial.

The third season of the American animated television series Sponge Bob Square Pants, created by Stephen Hillenburg, aired on Nickelodeon from October 5, 2001 to October 11, 2004, and consists of 20 episodes.